Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interview: Tom Gjelten's book about Bacardi looks at the intersetcion of Bacardi Rum and Cuban politics...

Journalist and NPR Correspondent Tom Gjelten's book Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Penguin) is an interesting work about the ironic intersection of politics and spirits. The family behind the nearly 150 year old Bacardi were politically influential in Cuba and were consistently on the side of progressive politics. Mark and Lynn were lucky enough to speak to Mr. Gjelten about his book and the influence of Bacardi on the spirit world. MLAF: What is the identify of Bacardi in the world of spirits? Is it well respected? A tawdry relation?

TG: "It’s well respected – its awesome commercial success is unquestioned and enviable – but I would say it’s seen as a bit aggressive in its competitive style. The best example is the way it has taken on Pernod Ricard over the Havana Club trademark. Among connoisseurs, light Bacardi rum (what you most often see) is not considered a very remarkable spirit and Bacardi 8 – the top of the line product – is seen as overpriced for its quality. I would say that premium rum drinkers tend to favor some of the lesser known brands – Barbancourt ( Haiti ), Flor de CaƱa ( Nicaragua ), Zacapa ( Guatemala ), etc..."

MLAF: If there was no Bacardi would rum be important?

TG "Interesting and unanswerable question. Without a doubt, Bacardi made rum a far, far more popular drink than it was previously precisely because the Bacardis were the first to make a rum that could work in a cocktail. The rum-and-coke, Daiquiri, and mojito were all created originally with Bacardi rum (in Cuba ), but that someone else could have produced a light, mixable rum that would eventually have become just as important is certainly possible. There was a mad scramble in Cuba in the mid to late 19th century to produce a more marketable, popular rum. It’s just that Bacardi got there first."

MLAF: When you are in the liquor store what do you think of when you see a Bacardi bottle?

" TG: At this point, having invested way more of my life in this book than I ever intended, I would be happy never to see another bottle of Bacardi as long as I live. But that’s not Bacardi’s fault."

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I (Mark) have written for The Christian Science Monitor, Clear Magazine, Picture Magazine, Film Score Monthly, Dan's Papers, Rue Morgue, In Flight USA and a lot more publications that I can't remember.... My wife Lynn was a model with the Ford Agency and her photography has been featured in most of the publications I have written for...


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